In the House District 19A special election, Clark Johnson’s victory all came down to the “Gustie vote.” When Minnesota State Representative and Gustavus Professor in Communication Studies Terry Morrow resigned, a special election was held to fill his seat in the House. After battling through an expedited campaign, the candidates and their constituents watched the election results come in on Tuesday night.
GOP candidate Allen Quist and DFL candidate Clark Johnson were neck and neck in the results until the numbers from the Saint Peter precinct came in. After that, Johnson emerged as the clear winner and ended up winning the election with 53% of the vote. Quist received 36% of the vote, and the Independent candidate, Tim Gieseke, received 10% of the vote.
“Prior to the election, there were a lot of people who were saying that the Gustie vote wouldn’t matter because students were just getting back from break and wouldn’t be motivated to go vote. But when the votes came in from our precinct on Tuesday night we had a majority of votes for Clark. That is really what boosted him up in the polls. Gustavus definitely did make a difference, and we made our vote count,” President of the Gustavus College Democrats Megan Nelson said.
The Gustavus Democrats have been working hard over the past month to raise awareness not only about the DFL candidate, Clark Johnson, but also about the fact that an election was happening.
“It was definitely different than the general election. It seemed like a lot of people didn’t understand what a special election was, so it was critical to try to reach out to them and tell them why it was important,” Nelson said.
On Monday night, the Gustavus Democrats hosted an on-campus rally for Clark Johnson, featuring Governor Mark Dayton and Congressman Tim Walz. At the rally, Johnson, Governor Dayton and Representative Walz all spoke about why Johnson should be the next state representative from district 19A.
“This is an important election. This election isn’t about me, or what people think about my policies, this is about what’s best for the people of Minnesota. This is about your future, about the future of the citizens of District 19A, and about the future of Minnesotans. Clark is the candidate who is going to do what is best for this district and what is best for the state. You might think that this election doesn’t matter, but it matters a lot. If you believe in a fair tax system, if you believe in funding for education, then Clark Johnson is your candidate,” Governor Dayton told the crowd on Monday.
“Because the seat was vacated we have to have a special election, but this is a special election because it is a special opportunity. This legislative session has the opportunity to really change Minnesota. I want you to know that I will listen to you, I will learn from you and I really want you to understand that I will work hard. I will work hard for you, I will work hard with you, and I really believe that together we can create a brighter future for all of MN,” Johnson told supporters at the rally.
Deputy Campaign Director and Gustavus Senior Karla Leitzman has a variety of reasons for supporting Clark Johnson, but says she is especially excited to see how he approaches the topic of same-sex marriage while in the legislature.
“Clark mentioned at the rally that he really believes in marriage equality. With Minnesotans voting no on the marriage amendment in November, they’ve really been able to keep the momentum going and now supporters in Congress are writing a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage within the state. Since Clark [Johnson] won, I’m really enthused to see how he pushes for that because he has made it clear that it is one of his objectives,” Leitzman said.
Both Leitzman and Nelson said that mobilizing the Gustie vote was essential to winning in the special election. They both credited the Gustavus Democrats’ ability to mobilize Gustie voters through publicity, phone-banking and the rally for Johnson’s victory.
“I think that even if people didn’t go to the rally, just knowing that Governor Dayton and Congressman Walz were here to support Clark [Johnson] sent a huge message saying these two great politicians were here to support our new state representative,” Nelson said.
“I’m really excited to see what happens because Clark [Johnson] is very optimistic, and I think he will do a lot of really great bipartisan stuff when he gets to St. Paul. I truly believe that Clark wants what is best for this state and for this country and therefore will be a really great representative for Gustavus and for all of district 19A,” Leitzman said.